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Hannover 0 Bayern 4

Ruthless Reds hammer hapless Hannover

Bayern dismissed any fears of a hangover from the demanding Champions League trip to Arsenal in midweek with a convincing 4-0 victory away to Hannover 96 on Sunday evening. The champions’ amazing run in the league now comprises 14 straight wins and 47 games without defeat, and their lead at the top of the Bundesliga is up to a surely unassailable 19 points.

The 49,000 full house at the HDI Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s team slowly but surely pick up speed and take a 25th-minute lead through Thomas Müller. Thiago doubled the lead on 34 minutes as Munich engaged cruise control, but just as Hannover threatened a comeback, Müller and Mario Mandzukic struck either side of the hour to banish any lingering doubts.

With Wolfsburg the only winners among the five teams immediately behind them, Bayern’s 20th win of the season extends their huge lead over second-placed Leverkusen to 19 points. The Bavarians, who have 62 points from 22 matches and seem odds-on to wrap up the title in March, now have two weeks without a midweek fixture and can concentrate exclusively on preparing for next Saturday evening’s home meeting with fellow Champions League hopefuls Schalke.

Starts for Schweini and Starke

Guardiola took the opportunity to hand Manuel Neuer a rest and Bastian Schweinsteiger a first start since last autumn. Tom Starke deputised in goal, with three further changes to the team that beat Arsenal 2-0 in the Champions League: Rafinha, Schweinsteiger and Müller took over from Dante, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben.

FCB lined up with Starke in goal, Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha in defence, captain Philipp Lahm and Thiago in holding roles, Schweinsteiger, Müller and Mario Götze in attacking midfield, and Mandzukic at centre-forward.

Thomas and Thiago strike

After referee Knut Kircher whistled the match underway, Boateng was the first to warm home keeper Ron-Robert Zieler’s gloves with an angled drive on 11 minutes, before Alaba’s free-kick was deflected narrowly wide. New Hannover boss Tayfun Korkut had set his men up to counter-attack and Artjoms Rudnevs even rounded Starke after quarter of an hour, but the keeper recovered brilliantly and stifled the Latvia hitman’s shot.

But FCB were beginning to find their passing range, Schweinsteiger engineering the opener after 25 minutes with a glorious reverse ball to release Rafinha in acres of space on the right, and Müller thrusting into the box to meet the Brazilian’s clipped cross with a powerful header inside the near post.

Zieler is one of the German national team’s squad goalkeepers and the Hannover man showed why with excellent saves in quick succession from Mandzu and Müller, but the shot-stopper was powerless to prevent Thiago making it two on 34 minutes with a thumping close-range volley after Schweinsteiger sprang the home offside trap with a lovely first-time chip. Munich were content to see it through to the break with the two-goal lead under their belts.

Müller and Mandzu wrap it up

The first chance of the second half actually fell to Rudnevs but the home striker rushed his finish after being gifted possession from a rare Munich mistake. Korkut’s men took heart and Starke saved superbly from Senegal striker Mame Diouf’s downward header, before Neuer’s deputy rushed from his goal to block Manuel Schmiedebach.

But Bayern were in merciless mood in front of goal and Müller made it three from eight yards after Mandzukic cunningly flicked Alaba’s pass into his path. Hannover refused to give up and sub Edgar Prib saw his deflected shot squirm narrowly wide, before Müller gave way to Arjen Robben in the 62nd minute. Mandzukic put a scissors kick only just wide as the visitors turned the screw, and the Croat duly made it four with a towering 66th-minute header from another pinpoint Rafinha cross.

Midweek man of the match Kroos and Claudio Pizarro replaced Götze and Schweinsteiger after the fourth goal as the game entered its closing stages, with Starke saving well from centre-back Christian Schulz, Robben having a decent shout for a penalty waved aside,

Live match report for by Chris Hamley